Episode 36 – Is “Unlearning” Bad Habits Necessary?
For years I believed that before I could make any progress with my singing I’d have to unlearn all the “bad” stuff I’d worked so hard to learn.
Do you have this same belief?
I even taught that to my students – unfortunately.
It’s all I knew.
I read a book a few years ago that freed me from that belief.
In this episode I bust the myth of the need to “unlearn”.
There’s a lot more in this one too. (-:
The Inner Singer Podcast
Episode 36 – Transcripts
Is “Unlearning” Bad Habits Necessary?
Well, hey there, everybody. This is Mike Goodrich. This is the Inner Singer Podcast. Thank you so much for joining me today and sharing this time with me, especially when I know how busy everybody is.
I know how busy I am, so I know that all of you out there are very, very occupied with your lives, your careers, and your families. Sharing this time with me is very important. I don’t take that lightly. I take it very seriously. So thank you so much for being here.
Now, I have a few—well, there’s just a couple of things that I wanted to cover today.
Number one, I don’t have an answer to this myself, but perhaps you do. We are now in episode 36 of the Inner Singer Podcast, and we’ve had the same format forever. So we’ve been doing this—what’s 36 divided by 4? What is it? Nine months or something like that probably. And it’s been the same format which I love. It’s just me and a microphone and my computer, talking and sharing things with you and ideas.
But I don’t know why, but it’s starting to feel like it may be time that this morphs into something, maybe takes on a new direction, some other ideas. Like I said, I only have the feeling. I don’t have the answer. I have just a feeling that maybe there’s a little bit of a new direction for the podcast to go in.
And that’s why I’m asking you. You all may know and feel a direction, something that you would like.
And I’ve mentioned before, a long time ago—and perhaps the time wasn’t right. It may not be right now. But just asking if you’d be interested in me doing interviews with people that are in the mindset arena, in the brain arena, in the neuroscience arena based on what’s going on with the brain, and in the singing arena, any kind of arena that might be applicable to the inner singer.
So, if you do or you feel that we would benefit by taking the show in a little bit of a different direction or adding some new elements to it, I’m totally and completely open to that. I’m feeling on some level, something is well. But like I say, I don’t have the answer. I’m waiting until I can feel what direction to go and what sounds like fun and what you guys might like and all that.
So, anyway, I’ll just ask you if you’re feeling the same thing, if you’re totally content with the way things are and you like just listening to me for 20 minutes. You’re enjoying that and getting a lot of out it. That’s awesome too!
So, anyway, just let me know your feedback. You can email me. My personal email is michael@GoodrichVocal.com. And the reasons I give that out instead of an Inner Singer email—which I’m also reachable at—is by the time you’re listening to this, I may have this worked out, but I have a Mac, and for some reason, my Mac mail, I cannot get mike@theInnerSinger.com on my email. And I’ve gone around and around with my hosting company.
So it’s probably just safer to email me at michael@GoodrichVocal.com for now. Hopefully, I get this worked out.
But anyway, so now onto today’s episode. I want to open with a joke. I have some ideas for today’s episode. And when I’m thinking about an idea for an episode, it’s very difficult to not wonder even before I record the episode, “What am I going to call this?”
And there are a couple of reasons that I always wonder what I’m going to call something. And number one is because I think a good title of an episode attracts people to listen to it. And of course, I want as many people to listen to it as possible.
But I also want the title to be authentic and real and not misleading like some of these bad emails from some of these marketers. The subject line of the email says “Bad News!” Everybody is going, “What’s the bad news?” They click on it and they say, “Well, it’s bad news because the sale of my product ends tonight.” I don’t want to pull that kind of nonsense. That’s just silly. I don’t like it when people do that to me, so I’m not going to do it to you.
But I am usually wondering what would be a good title that’s authentic and honest and reflects what the episode was actually about. And yet today, I have all kinds of ideas, not particularly one thing that I think I can talk about for 20 minutes, but you never know. So I’m going to jump in, and we’ll just kind of see where this goes.
And like I said, I’m going to open with a joke. Hopefully, I haven’t told this joke before. But after 36 episodes unscripted, it’s possible. But at least I know I’ve never opened with it. And I don’t think I’ve gone in this direction terribly much with it.
So here’s the joke:
Some people were to prize-fight. There’s a prize-fight going on—you know, with boxes. This guy is sitting in the crowd, and he’s sitting next to a priest. So the fighters, the two fighters, are getting ready to fight. They go to the center of the ring like they do. They touch their gloves. Boom! They touch their gloves. And then they go back to their separate corners.
Well, one guy, one boxer, gets down on his knees and does the sign of the cross like he’s praying. He does the sign of the cross.
And so the guy in the crowd, he looks to the prices. He looks over the priest and says, “Gee, Father, is that going to help him?”
The priest says, “Not if he can’t fight.”
So, my dad told that years ago. Why am I telling it to you now besides the fact it’s kind of a cute joke? How does that apply to the inner singer? How does that apply to singing?
Well, you’re probably already picking up on it. But I just want to always affirm to you that I am not one of these people that thinks you can positive think or affirm your way into a good voice or a great voice or a wonderfu technique or comfort onstage without actually singing, without actually vocalizing, without studying technique, without really getting good at that end of it.
The way I look at singing—and I have a website that I haven’t built. I have a domain name that I haven’t built called Singing with Presence. I decided to go the Inner Singer route and hold everything that I do under the umbrella of the Inner Singer. But Singing with Presence to me in my ideas was kind of a trifecta.
It was three. It was three things. And one was the inner singer, one was what goes on the inside, the inner game of singing, let’s say. And the other was the vocal technique. That’s what we’re doing on the outer side. So we work on the inner singer, we work on the outer singer.
And the other that helps bring everything together is the performance aspect of it.
Now, many of you know, if you’ve listened to this podcast or know me at all, I always like to substitute the word ‘experience’ for ‘performance’ because performance just have so many connotations. I’ll use performance for now just so we all can get on the same page and understand what we’re talking about here.
So, the trilogy, the trium thing, the trifecta is the inner singer, the singing technique and the performance aspect of it.
One without the other, I would say one without two others, not so great. Two without the one, not so great. I mean, you can perform really well and you can have great singing technique, but if you’re not really connected to your inner singer, if your inner singer isn’t supportive, you may not even understand how good you are. You may be scared to go onstage. You might sabotage your career, all kinds of things like that.
If you have a really strong confidence, if your inner singer is real confident and you’re a great performer, but you have a terrible vocal technique and you sing all over the place, not going to be so great.
I could go on and on and on, but you get the picture. You want all three.
And so, that to me is what that joke means. It’s like going onstage in a contest, let’s say he’s going to go to American Idol or something, he comes onstage, he kneels down, he does the sign of the cross and he stands up in front of the judges, and one judge says to the other one, “Hmmm… is that going to help him?” the other judge says, “Not if he can’t sing.” It’s the same thing.
So, I don’t want to always leave you guys, or I don’t want to ever actually leave you all hanging with just thinking that you only have to develop your inner singer because you have to do a tremendous amount, pay tremendous amount of attention. I don’t like to use the word ‘work’, but we do have to pay a lot of attention to our outer singer which is our voice.
And there are, like we’ve talked about before, many, many ways that we can expedite our progress through the inner work. But there is no escaping the outer work. There’s no escaping the actual singing and the vocalization and the voice-building.
There had been many people that have helped themselves lose weight with affirmations and visualizations and vision boards and all these kinds of things. But there’s probably very few of them did that without actually being conscious of their diet as well and maybe throwing some exercise into the recipe.
So, it’s really the same thing here. We can do all the inner work—and I really think we must do all the inner work. Heck, that’s what this show is all about. But I also wanted to include—
You know, maybe I’m answering my own question here. Maybe the direction of this show needs to be to begin to include that and then to show you all how that works together, to talk about voice technique a little bit from an inner singer perspective and how to apply it.
What if you had a methodology or a system for your singing and your vocalizing that included the inner singer instead of just a course on singing?
Now, I don’t have a course on singing, so this isn’t a sales pitch. I’m not trying to sell you anything. I’m just thinking out loud.
But what if you had a way to apply this that is a little more of a system so that you didn’t have to guess. You listen to the Inner Singer Podcast and you get, hopefully, some really, really good information that you can then take back into your life and into your singing. But is there too much guess work for you right now? And I’m asking actually. This isn’t a rhetorical question. I’m actually asking. You can let me know your answer. Is there too much guess work? Is this something where you’re listening to the podcast and saying, “Well, that’s all well and good. That sounds really cool. And I get it.” And then, the next day, you’re singing, it’s like, “What did he say? How do I apply that? It sounded good at the time, but I don’t know how that’s going to help me right now.” Does that ever happen to you?
And if that does, I would really, really like to know because perhaps the direction we could go is going more into the voice and how the inner singer supports the voice, so that you don’t have to continually guess.
I do this all day long every day, so I’m very used to incorporating this into teaching. So, if I’m leaving you hanging at all here, please let me know, so I can fill in the blanks for you and help you on that direction.
But right now, suffice to say that it is really, really necessary and important to give a lot of attention to the technical aspect of your voice and the performance aspect of your singing. The inner singer without those two is a lot better than nothing, but it probably won’t get you where you really want to be.
So, I think that’s probably enough said about that. I want to move on to another topic that I was inspired to talk about here. But please let me know on that if you have any thoughts, ideas. Definitely, I’m completely open.
So, the other topic that I wanted to talk about is an idea that I just covered a few years back by reading a book that I’ll tell you about in a minute. But it really set me on a different direction. I realized that I had been teaching correctly. There had been a component of my teaching that I had bought into as a singer and that I was passing on to some of my students.
I realized when I read this book that I was totally wrong about doing that, so I stopped immediately. And I even told people. “So listen, I was wrong about this. If I said this to you, it’s not right.” I shifted it in myself because it was incorrect.
And the idea is as follows: it’s this idea of “unlearning.”
Now, when I was a young singer, I had a lot of what one would call “bad habits” going on. There were just a lot of things that I did wrong or just didn’t do well.
Now, I probably talked about this before, but I really didn’t sing well. I’m totally serious about that. And I always jokingly say, “I do have old cassettes that could really prove that what I’m telling you is true.” I had no vibrato. I just had kind of a loud, flat tone. I don’t mean flat as far as pitch, I just mean flat as far as there was no vibrancy to it, there was no vibrato, there was no spin, there were no overtones. It was just kind of a dead “Aaah…” tone. So not hugely pleasant, right? But I had good pitch.
The things that I had going for me were this. I had very good pitch, and I was a good mimic. That’s about it! The things that I didn’t have going for me is I didn’t have very good quality. I didn’t have any control of my voice whatsoever. It hurt when I sang. I couldn’t sing high at all. My larynx would go up into my nose, just about, as I was singing. And pretty much, you name it. So yeah, it was pretty abyssmal, pretty bad.
Of course, when I found a really good teacher, my belief from what I had learned was that, “Oh, great! I’ve been singing for all these years, now I have to ‘unlearn’ all these stuff.”
And what I was taught years ago, the unlearning process is twice as long as it took you to actually learn it in the first place.” So I thought, “My gosh! So, if I’ve been doing this for five years, I’ve got 10 years of unlearning to do before I can even start learning anything new? That’s just awful!”
And some of you folks out there—well, let’s not say some. Probably all you folks out there, I would say without question—probably all you folks out there that are listening to this are much smarter than I was when I bought into that.
Oh, man, some of the things I said back when I was in my twenties, argh! I’ve told before and they just laugh, they say, “Dude, really? You actually said that out loud?” I said, “Yeah, I actually said that out loud.” I won’t tell you because it really is ridiculous. And it’s not bad or anything, it’s just George Castan, it’s stupid (if any of you guys have ever seen Seinfeld). It’s just absolutely stupid some of the things that I believed and said.
But anyway, having said that, let me tell you how I shifted that and how that shifted for me. And it shifted fast, this belief.
I was reading this book called The Inner Game of Tennis. This is a very old book. I’m kind of dating myself. It’s very old. It was written when I was a kid. So I guess I just called myself very old. But anyway, it’s an older book.
God, I did it again, older book. The book was written a while ago. There you go! That’s a more positive spin on my age.
Anyway, so the book was written a while ago. And the fellow who wrote it—I wish I could remember his name—but he went on. Actually, people realized that this book wasn’t just about tennis even though this fellow was a tennis player and a tennis coach and it was written about tennis. Shortly after its publication, he started doing speaking engagements all over the place. He would talk to corporations because people were realizing, “Wow! This is written about tennis as the vehicle, but these principles are applicable to business, to life, in anything.” It was a terrific book. I got a lot out of it.
And years ago was when that seed was planted for me, in me, that would awaken years and years later when I would have the idea for the inner game of singing.
I thought, “Well, singing is not really a game, although it should be. People might not understand that it is a game. It should be really fun like a game.” But I thought, “Nah, people aren’t going to really maybe follow me or track with me on that because I don’t want them to think I’m making light of it.”
So then The Inner Singer came to me. That’s where The Inner Singer came from, the idea, after it germinated for years and years and years. But anyway, I digress…
So this fellow in the book said, “There’s no reason to ‘unlearn. We do not have to unlearn.” I’m paraphrasing because I don’t have the book in front of me to quote. But it’s basically, “You don’t have to unlearn anything. All you have to do is learn a new efficient way of doing it.”
He used what I thought was a really great example. He says, “When a baby is crawling, and the baby then begins to walk and abandons crawling for walking, did he unlearn crawling?” I thought to myself, “No. My little boy, he can still crawl. I can still crawl. I’m sure all you guys can still crawl.” So, we didn’t unlearn it. We didn’t forget how to do it. I still know how to crawl, my little boy knows how to crawl. We just found a more efficient way of getting from here to there.
That was hugely profound to me as somebody that had believed for years and years that I had to spend an incredible amount of time unlearning my bad habits.
Listen how negative that is. Listen how defeating that is. If I was doing kinesiology on myself right now or somebody was muscle testing me right now and I went into that thought when somebody said, “Okay, think about unlearning and spending all that time in what that requires and what that really means to the stories that you tell yourself,” number one, I have to unlearn, it’s going to take twice as long and “I’m such an idiot for having done it wrong in the first place.” I mean, how unsupportive can we be of ourselves. But anyway, that’s where I was.
And sadly, that’s what I taught. I didn’t say it like that. Somebody would come in with all kinds of bad habits. I would be having a challenge with them and I say, “Well, you’ve got to unlearn a lot of this. You really were a great student. You learned all these things incorrectly. You’ve built in coordinations that now need to be unlearned.” I wish I could take it all back, but you can’t do that. All I can do for the folks that I said that to is hope that they read The Inner Game of Tennis or hope that they’re listening to this podcast or hope that somebody else set them straight.
But that was a belief that was really prevalent in the culture, this whole idea of unlearning. “You learned that baseball swing or that golf swing wrong. Well, boy, it’s too bad. But now, you’re going to have to unlearn it.” Wow! And to finally have light shed on that and say, “No, you don’t. You’re using a particular wiring, a particular group of muscles, a particular coordinations that just is no longer efficient. So now you just build a new one, you establish a new one.” You stop doing the old and you start doing the new. There’s no unlearning. You don’t have to forget anything.
From the brain standpoint, the circuitry will begin to atrophy the less you pay attention to it. Perhaps my little boy can’t crawl as well as he did—although he probably can, and so can we. But I’m talking about certain things.
For example, the way I used to sing when I would pull my chest up like crazy, I honestly really can’t do that anymore. I really can’t remember how. But it’s not because I’ve unlearned it. It’s because I made a decision and a choice that it was no longer serving me. It was no longer an efficient way to sing. It no longer supported what I wanted to do and how I wanted to express myself. So, I put it aside, and I learned a new way of doing it.
And through learning that new way and focusing on that and practicing that and playing with that, the other wiring began to atrophy because I wasn’t doing that anymore. I wasn’t paying any attention to that anymore. I kind of put that on the shelf. Could I go back and awaken it and figure out how to do it again. I don’t know. Who cares? I probably can, but do I want to? No. Do I want to go back to being in an abyssmal singer like when I was when I started? No, no, no. I don’t want to. I don’t want to. That was not that much fun.
So yeah, this idea of unlearning, if you’ve been carrying that around, forget about it. You don’t have to unlearn anything. You can just make a choice and decide that what you’re doing isn’t as efficient as something else might be. And so you learn a new way. But you don’t unlearn. You don’t say, “Oh, my gosh! I’ve been working on this for years. It’s going to take me six months or two years to unlearn it. And then I can start over again…finally! Oh, my gosh! So I’m not even at ground zero! Oh, my gosh! I’m starting in the hole.” Isn’t that what we believe? That’s what I believed. I won’t say it’s what you believed, but it’s certainly what I believed. “Oh, my gosh! I’m starting in a hole.”
Well, if you can identify this with this, if you resonate with this, either you’ve got some bad singing habits or some things that are slowing you down that you need to improve or let go off, and if anybody has ever told you you have to unlearn them first, don’t. Let it go. Forget about it. Just make a new choice and learn a new, more efficient and supportive way of doing it. You don’t have to unlearn anything. So, to me, that was very, very freeing.
Okay! I’m looking over at the time here. Oh, goodness, 24 minutes. Well, I’ll do a little bit of editing here, editing out some of the silences. That will get us down a little bit. But this has gone a little bit long.
But again, what I said in the beginning, please, if you have any ideas, if you think what I’ve said about shifting into kind of showing you a little bit more of the technique idea and how to incorporate that with the inner singer, let me know. Any other ideas are welcome.
And if you’ve reviewed the podcast over at iTunes, I’m tremendously grateful. If you haven’t, I would love it if you would take the time to do that. It would be really, really cool if you’re enjoying these. If you’re not enjoying these, then you’re probably not listening anyway. If you’re not enjoying them, please don’t rate it. Please don’t. But if you’re enjoying it, please rate it and please give me a nice review.
And like I said, I left my email earlier in the podcast, michael@GoodrichVocal.com. If you have any questions or ideas, please let me know anything you’d like me to cover on the show.
I’m wrapping. Oh, my goodness! Twenty-five minutes. I’m going to go now because I’m talking way too long and taking a little bit more time of yours than I want to.
So anyway, all the best. I’ll see you next week. Bye bye.